CIA Threatens, Bill Caves Again

Sidney Zion - New York Daily News - November 12, 1998

In the spring of 1948, Secretary of State George Marshall threatened to resign if President Harry Truman recognized the State of Israel. Truman revered Marshall, as did the country and the free world. But he recognized Israel. And Marshall didn't resign.

In the fall of 1998, CIA Director George Tenet threatened to resign if President Bill Clinton released Jonathan Pollard to Israel. Clinton collapsed to this great pressure from a guy nobody ever heard of until Clinton made him.

It's hardly the only difference between Harry Truman and Bill Clinton, but it tells us more about Clinton's character than anything Kenneth Starr was able to produce. It tells us plenty, too, about the character of the Justice Department and the intelligence community. They want Pollard iced until the day he dies, and they are shameless because what they did was to wire the double cross to the double standard.

It is no exaggeration to say that Jonathan Pollard was the victim of the worst double cross in the history of American jurisprudence. He pleaded guilty to spying for Israel and got life , the maximum sentence under the espionage laws.

The Justice Department promised to ask only for a "substantial sentence" which meant 10 years, because nobody ever had to do more time than that for spying for an ally.

Justice was lucky to make that deal. Had Pollard refused to talk, practically nothing would have happened to him. His Israeli control agents were out of the U.S. The worst that he would have been hit with was a minor charge of illegal possession of classified materials.

But Pollard chose to trust his prosecutors and so spilled the beans. He thought of himself not as an agent against America, but as an agent for Israel helping the Israelis against the Arabs. And he was only that. The secrets he delivered to the Mossad could in no way harm the United States.

The Justice Department implicitly accepted his reasoning and was right to accept it, because the stuff Pollard delivered to Israel should have been turned over by our government under longstanding agreements. We are talking about buildups in death weaponry by the Iraqis and the Syrians. But Caspar Weinberger, then secretary of defense, did not want Israel to know these things. And in the end, it was Cappy Weinberger who delivered the poison pill to Pollard's judge.

Weinberger, who never forgave his grandfather for his Jewish name, sent an eleventh-hour memorandum to the trial judge. It accused Pollard of "treason" a charge never made by the prosecution because it couldn't be made, since Israel is an ally of America. As lagniappe, Weinberger called Pollard "the worst spy in American history."

This is the Big Lie, and the best one can say about Weinberger is that he confused Pollard with Aldrich Ames, the CIA agent who later confessed to causing the deaths of many American agents inside the Soviet Union. Ames, under investigation, apparently deflected suspicion from himself to Pollard.

At Wye River last month, Clinton agreed to release Pollard as a "sweetener" to Benjamin Netanyahu. Contrary to the White House spin when the deal went south, it was Clinton who raised it on the day the peace talks began. Bibi was portrayed in the press as a guy trying to blackmail the President with a last-minute demand. Pure baloney. What happened was that the CIA and the prosecutors who double-crossed Pollard went to war and backed Clinton off his promise.

The New York Times gave the swindle away yesterday when it broke the story about Tenet's threatening to resign. If Clinton hadn't made the deal already, why would Tenet make the threat? If you want to define blackmail, say no more.

Meanwhile, Michael Schwartz walks free. Who's he? Not a Jew, despite his name. Schwartz, a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy, was charged last year with delivering military secrets to Saudi Arabia between 1992 and 1994. He pleaded guilty to a couple of charges lesser than espionage and was set free with nothing more than a less-than-honorable discharge.

And Jonathan Pollard rots in prison. The double-cross wired to the double standard.